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Cambridgeshire Harriers Hunt Club at Cottenham
Sunday 31st December 2006
by Simon McInnes

The course has a reputation for attracting vast crowds, but being fairly well spread out, is able to cope with them. It did not seem today that the numbers were at their peak, but an 11.00am start did mean that the point hungry racegoers were still streaming in after the second race. It helped that it was obvious in advance that there would be nine races due to the numbers in the youngsters maiden, so a healthy day's entertainment would still be received.

The racing surface had proved remarkably resilient to the recent weather, as was the car park, but most of all the banks which are the prime viewing spots aside from the small stand were no more than inconveniently slippery, when it might have been their job to provide plenty of comedy falling over.

Robert & Joan Clinton Members Conditions [3m]
1: Krac D'Argos 2: Selassie 3: Bright Present
Winner owned: David Parker, trained: Katie Baimbridge, ridden: Julian Pritchard

The riders of Krac D'Argos and Royal Jake were clearly not a’ feared of the going in any way as they ensured a very decent early pace for this, with the pack tailing them at a respectful distance. Krac D'Argos (who was the first of several horses on the day to get a bit sweaty in the mild temperatures - on New Year's Eve!) was the one able to sustain it to the end, with Selassie being the only horse able to get within sniffing distance. Having been held up a long way off of the pace, and only be beaten a few lengths in the end, some were probably questioning the tactics on Selassie, but he was hard ridden in the straight whilst the winner had plenty in hand, and second was as good as he would have been even if laying up closer to the leaders. Although well beaten, Bright Present hinted at a return to his best Irish form in outlasting Mr Naborro for third.

The Ancient Shepherd Restricted [3m]
1: Gillie's Nephew 2: Guthrie 3: Coppingers Court
Winner owned: Colin Gee, trained: Joan Johnston, ridden: James Tudor

Due to a serious injury to Adrian Gibbons, whose mount Qualicom rolled on him when they fell at the first and then was knocked onto him again when bumped trying to get to its feet, the last fence was omitted twice, leading to a very long run-in. This enabled another sweaty beast, Gillie's Nephew to just cling on to defy a long absence by a head. As the motoring Guthrie had out jumped him at the last two fences that they crossed it does hint that the bypassed obstacle may have affected the outcome. The injured rider was still down a long time after the race finished, appearing unconscious, but I did not hear the ambulance roar off sirens blaring, so hopefully the damage was not too serious in the end. Coppingers Court, an Irish maiden winner made a so-so British debut, as he might have a little bit of improvement to come. Box On was in contention when he fell four out, and Lightningconducter went at the same obstacle when similarly poised, but at the angle it was not clear if he was brought down, distracted or just went in sympathy.

Volkswagen Touareg Men's Open [3m]
1: Ballylusky 2: Bob Ar Aghaidh 3: Houlihans Free
Winner owned: Mr & Mrs William Rucker, trained: Sheila Crow, ridden: Richard Burton

The market said that this was at the mercy of Ballylusky or Rhythm King, so when the latter departed at the third (an uncharacteristic but not unique blip), it should have been a stroll, but Bob Ar Aghaidh proved disturbingly persistent for a horse that failed to complete in his last four races under Rules. If the change of scenery has sweetened him up he could turn out to be a decent pointer. In fact, had Ballylusky not summoned the better jump at the last, it could even have been a winning start. Houlihans Free was up with the first pair until three from the finish, but he tired quickly and did well to get going again for second after a mistake two out brought him to a complete standstill. After his good effort at Tweseldown, Halexy ran a very lacklustre race today and others who did well at the Hampshire track before Christmas disappointed today. Too many pies, presumably.

Johns Of Cambridge Countryside Alliance Club Members, Novice Riders [3m]
1: Homme De Fer 2: Sure Future 3: Sudden Arrival
Winner owned: Countess Cathcart, trained: Nigel Bloom, ridden: George Greenock

Unusually for this type of race, thirteen started and they all finished, but it was inevitably not without a little controversy. There was a bit of chaos at the tapes, and the commentator spotted a signal for a false start. He tried to get the riders' attention, but failed and the white flag operator stood his ground until he realised that moving was the optimal survival technique. However, it was announced whilst the race was in progress that the stewards were happy with the start, but presumably this was not true of the riders of Hot Plunge (whose rider, Kelly Smith did not seem wildly enthused about getting on board, and Hot Plunge did his best to encourage the opinion) and Jovian Pond, who were tailed off by the first. The last 2m 7f were fairly uneventful, with Homme De Fer, almost as old as some of the riders, securing win number six on the eve of his fifteenth birthday. Sure Future ran rather well to the last but faded on the run-in and nearly lost second to newcomer Sudden Arrival, who lived up to his name with a late charge from well off of the pace. Amazingly, Hot Plunge managed to pinch fourth, a sign of what he can do when in the mood - it seems keeping him in a good mood for a mere seven minutes of racing is no easy job. Useful handicap chaser Jakari made his pointing debut, but he was never a prolific winner despite running well at the top meetings, and is probably a hard ride for a novice jockey.

Baileys Horse Feeds Ladies' Open [3m]
1: Interdit 2: Another Client 3: Ivanoph
Winner owned & trained: Mrs BK Thomson, ridden: Jill Wormall

My recollection was that Interdit could be a little less than ideally genuine under Rules, but he was honest enough today, justifying the long trip down from Scotland, although helped by some potential threats looking as if they would come on for the exercise and a great recovery from Jill Wormall at the first when Interdit did not seem to notice the fence at all until he walked through it. Another Client ran his best race for some time in being a close second, and the same goes for Ivanoph whose 2006 season proper was eminently forgettable. Sea Ferry was fourth, being held up off of the pace, but not being fluent enough at the fences to make up the ground when asked to close. He might do better when up with the leaders. Uneasy in the betting, Placid Man was not boasting much spare flesh, but the muscle definition suggested that he had not been on the weights machines, and after setting off in front as per usual, he gradually faded out of it. He might be past his peak, but can do better than this next time. Last year's winner Physical Force also looked like the run would do him good.

Cheffins Open Maiden, 8 y.o and up [3m]
1: Chanticlier 2: Albert House 3: Golders Green
Winner owned & ridden: Lucy Franks, trained: Wilf Tolhurst

Paddock perusal suggested that of those with proven ability only Chanticlier and Amplifi were fit enough to do themselves justice. Coming off of a long absence, Amplifi weakened quickly and was pulled up around the thirteenth fence, but Chanticlier lived up to his appearance rather more successfully, helped by a good round of jumping. Albert House made a promising pointing debut as he looked as if the run would bring him on. He was a bit of a plodder under Rules, but should be able to win a maiden. Hard pulling Golders Green has one the odd decent race and does not ruin the look of the form. The only other finisher was Fusion Of Tunes, whose previous runs of a pulled up and a fall are less encouraging.

Weatherbys Chase Open Maiden 4-7 yo, Div I [2m 4f]
1: Rash Move 2: Why Connie 3: Lane Marshal
Winner owned: Mr K Hutsby, trained & ridden: Fred Hutsby

A winning debut in quite impressive style from Rash Move, whose thoroughly unrash attack on the far side coupled with a sound round of jumping enabled him to secure this with a certain amount of comfort. Why Connie was outpaced when the winner went for home, but kept on dourly as if 3 miles would be more his cup of tea. He did actually win a maiden in Ireland, only to disqualified, so has some merits to quantify Rash Move's performance. Lane Marshal was in second crossing the final obstacle but tied up quite badly on the run-in. It was not a disastrous start in points for a four year old, but he did similar over hurdles and never was able to build upon it. Breeze To The Top stayed on when it was all too late, a never dangerous fourth, but it was at least progress on his earlier form of PFP. Fourth in his only run in Ireland, Dark Surprise has not run since February 2004, and needed the run today. Not much was shown, but there is more in the locker sometime in the future.

Hardcastle Burton Accountants Open Maiden 4-7 yo, Div II [2m 4f]
1: Bon Accord 2: History Master 3: Si Anthony
Winner owned: Mr IR Mann, trained: Alan Hill, ridden: James Tudor

When I saw him in the line up, I had a recollection of seeing Bon Accord run in the past and doing poorly despite looking very fit and well. So I resolved not to get fooled again, D'Oh! Post match research revealed that it actually came in a novice hurdle at Plumpton, which has only borderline relevance to today. Eight races is a long old haul! He won very easily today, despite wandering around a bit when clear after the second last. This was only his fourth ever run, so Bon Accord should be able to go on a bit from this. History Master was another Rules refugee who had not shown much in that sphere, and whilst the completion and place cannot be cribbed, he was fairly readily seen off. In third, Si Anthony is the sort of nice big horse that everyone wants to do well, because this should see him in his element, and although he has not done much since coming from France, it is too soon to give up on him. Phriapatius, officially declared unpronounceable by the commentator, ran well until the third last and then unseated through fatigue at the next. There was some promise in this, although if he was as fit as he looked, stamina might be a hindrance.

Open Maiden 4-7 yo, Div III [2m 4f]
1: Top Boots 2: High Rank 3: China Case
Winner owned: Mrs JK Marriage, trained: Simon Marriage, ridden: Alex Merriam

With the flexibility of sponsors as noted above, it was not clear if this division was sponsored at all. This was probably the weakest division, not helped by the leaders going off too fast and being reeled in over the last half mile. In addition, Top Boots (last five runs R7PPP) was a slightly fortunate winner as Tank Top had got a good run on the stands rail to lead at the last, only to fall. He had run well until hitting the deck at Tweseldown, and must have the physical ability, just not the skill - yet. High Rank was something of a dodge pot under Rules, but having been hampered by Tank Top's fall, he ran on again to grab second. It might not be wise to assume that he will go one better next time. Devoid of any inspiring form at all, China Chase might well have been gifted the race by events at the last, had he not chosen to make a real hash of the last himself. Heirtoitall, who had a run under his belt, looked in line for very little on this evidence, and disqualified Tweseldown winner The Brogue Rogue ran an absolute stinker. Newcomer No More Tom seemed a reasonable sort in the paddock, although not fit, but he unseated as early as fence five. Early leader Shotgun Annie has yet to do anything of note, but her inclination to jump and run to her left suggests that right-handed Cottenham is not for her.

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